Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It is not spirituality vs religion, it is spirituality as religion!

Swami Agnivesh’s views on ‘God and I’ is still ringing in me.


Two issues from his views catch my thought.

One is that the core concept of religion is spirituality.

Very true.

All the rituals and the do’s and don’ts associated with religion

are aimed at helping the individual evolve spiritually.

If one fails to become spiritual in the inner core,

there is no use claiming that he is religious.

It is like the orange-example that Rajaji gave

to explain the difference between character and culture.

The outer skin of the orange is like culture or civilized behavior that one has.

But such behavior need not be reflective of the inner character.

The inner character is like the inner fruit of the orange covered by the outer peel.

The outer peel may shine well.

But the inner fruit may have been sour.

When the peel is removed, the inner quality of the fruit will become known.

Similarly with religion.

A person may claim to be a religionist and do all sorts of rituals.

But if the inner spiritual feeling is not there, there is no use.

From this it can be inferred -

that religion is only an aid to spiritual growth

and that one can become spiritual even without the aid of religion.

In other words, even without all talks of God and worship of God

one can be spiritual.

Can one be??

The answer for this lies in the second view of Swami Agnivesh

that life is a miracle!

Those who defy God but still sound spiritual,

have grown inward only by observing or admiring the nature around us.

Nature is a miracle and

everything around us is capable of inducing a sense of awe and wonder,

by the way they exist or by means of affecting our senses in some way.

In ‘God and I’ column,

we have seen people express that admiration as a way of their communion with God

or as experiencing some inner Truth.

So it all boils down to Nature and Creation.

When we think of Nature and Creation,

we come to realize how small or inadequate we are before that.

Even the air we inhale does not belong to us.

We have no control over that air.

Swami Agnivesh speaks of breathing as a miracle happening to us.

In my opinion, every second breathing is a miracle happening to us.

I am alive at the moment because I breathed now.

But I don’t know about the next breath.

It may come to me or it may not come to me.

I have no clue about it,

nor have I any hold over it.

There lies my inadequacy, however strong I may think I am.

When I have to depend on the air around

(which of course will not help me when my next breath fails me),

I have to accept that I am small and

that I have to depend on something else for my survival.

That is why the Upanishads praise air (vaayu) as a

‘prathyaksha Brahman’ (a palpable / tangible God).

When one grasps the serenity and beauty of Nature and Creation,

one starts growing empathic with all that is of this Nature and Creation.

Such empathy leads to compassion and love- all tendency.

This, in Vedanthic parlance is

Ahimsa paramO dharma:” – Non- violence is supreme dharma.

And Dharma is what God is embodied as.

That is why even if one says he loves all, but do not believe in God,

we must know that he is close to god only.

His inadequacy before Nature and Creation will someday

bring a realization about that Un-surmountable Nature and Creation.

He may call it by whatever name,

but a rose is a rose – call it by any name!

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